Harley-Davidson Napa Ride

We pair wine and motorcycles with a Harley-Davidson ride through California's Napa Valley.

CraveOnlineby CraveOnline


Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and wine aren’t supposed to go together, at least not at the same time. But, if you know when to pack it in from the open road – and when you’re riding with a descendant of the Mondavi wine dynasty – gears and grapes blend nicely.

To promote its 2012 bike lines, Harley-Davidson teamed up with cycle enthusiast and wine entrepreneur Carlo Mondavi to invite a small group of journalists on a scenic ride up the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur and Monterey to Mondavi’s boyhood home of Napa Valley.

In addition to giving those in the motorcycle riding and writing game a chance to get to know new Harley-Davidsons over a few days, the ride served a couple other purposes. Mondavi (the grandson of wine pioneer Robert Mondavi) is introducing his family’s next generation winery, Continuum. The same route that would break in the 2012 bikes would also take the press to the idyllic hills of Napa Valley to see where Continuum raises its grapes and perfects the single $165-per-bottle Cabernet Blendit will produce.

It’s no coincidence Harley-Davidson would look to partner with Mondavi. The snowboarder and skateboard is known for his love of motorcycles. But, Harley-Davidson is continuing its well-calculated quest to evolve its branding. Years ago, their bikes were identified with long hair and leather, burgers and fries, road houses and tattoos.

To this day, Harley-Davidson still holds that image, but they’re always on the look-out to reinvent themselves. The successful early phases of that re-creation included the stylish Dark Custom line of bikes, including distinctive evolutions of their cruisers like the Blackline, the Street Bob and the Iron 883.

Now, by identifying Harley-Davidsons with fine wine, Napa Valley and young executives like Mondavi, Milwaukee’s own motorcycle makers can reach out to a new class of would-be riders – younger motorcyclists who can take their bikes everywhere from a five-star restaurants to an elite resort.

The writers along for the ride met up with Mondavi in Marina Del Rey on the far west side of Los Angeles before commencing the long day one trek to lodgings in Big Sur. Reporters could have their pick of 2012 models including the racing pedigree XR1200X, the Nightster, the Street Bob, the Softail Blackline, the Fat Boy Lo, the Street Glide, the CVO Street Glide, the Road Glide Custom and a CVO Road Glide Custom. As they made stops along the route to stretch their legs and grab road food, the press had a chance to check out each other’s bikes and swap models for the next leg of the trip.

We’ll have complete individuals reviews of the bikes in coming weeks. For now, suffice to say, the selected mini-fleet was on target to demonstrate the growing variation in the Harley-Davidson line. From the traditional heavy cruisers like the CVO Road Glide to lighter speedsters like the dirt bike inspired XR1200X, there was a bike to suit any age, size or style of rider.

A daylong ride through a torrential downpour brought the caravan up the PCH through the Bay Area and safely home to the Mondavi estates in rural Napa. The end of the journey served up the opportunity to have a word with Mondavi about his love for motorcycles and his future in the wine industry.

Born into a would-be life of privilege, Mondavi chooses to build a new winery. He credits his parents with bleeding that ambition into him.

“They made us (Mondavi children) work for everything we go,” he said. “I cleaned out stables and worked grape harvests. It taught me to enjoy the work of farming – and to enjoy life whenever I could. So, I learned to play hard, also. I started skateboarding at the age of 7, and I was on motorcycles by 12.”

“Along the way, my parents taught me the value of friendships,” Mondavi added. “I was glad to have Harley-Davidson along for the ride with my friends.”